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Trailer Tunes: 'The Wolf of Wall Street' & Kanye's 'Black Skinhead'

At the intersection of movie trailers and music, what does Kanye West's 'Black Skinhead' tell us about the wildly anticipated Scorsese/DiCaprio re-teaming, 'The Wolf of Wall Street'?

There's always so much to unpack about a movie trailer: the stars, the plot, how much of the plot is being totally given away. But in many cases, the part of the trailer that sticks with you the longest is the music. Be it a pop song or a piece or orchestral score, it's the music that most often makes a trailer.

This Week's Trailer: The Wolf of Wall Street, the latest from a little director named Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, and a good half-dozen objectified blondes, and all the trappings of obscene wealth you could ask for.

This Week's Tune: "Black Skinhead," the attention-getting track from the attention-getting album Yeezus by the attention-getting hip-hop mega-star Kanye West.

How Literal Is It? Let's go with "not very." Not having seen the movie, I think I can regardless venture a guess to say that the things Kanye has to say about race, wealth, and celebrity don't have very much literal crossover with the Wall Street tycoons of Scorsese's film, who, despite their obscene, obnoxious wealth, are not contending with a fraction of the complexities that West's verse is talking about. However ...

How Emotional Is It? The people selling The Wolf of Wall St. would probably like you to think they're very much analogous. Co-opting Kanye's appeal to young men looks to be one of the top-line objectives in this trailer. A clear dog-whistle to the demographic that dug the masculine transgressions of The Departed and Gangs of New York that this is not the Scorsese who makes stardust fantasies about young cinephiles in Parisian train stations. This is the Scorsese who makes movies you quote to your boys while pre-gaming before the Knicks play.

How Definitive Is It? At the moment, pretty definitive. But wait a few months and re-assess; there might be a different answer then. The fact is that, in an unscientific study conducted by yours truly while writing this post, Kanye West was measured to be the most trailer-utilized artist in music today. His tracks have been permanently branded to movies from Jarhead to Limitless to The Great Gatsby and The Social Network. He is THE go-to guy when it comes to selling your movie, particularly if you want to sell it to dudes. Particularly if you want to sell it to dudes and you are a filmmaker like Sam Mendes or Baz Luhrmann or even David Fincher and your previous movies have been more moody or artsy or supergay. It's awfully hard to award points for originality to any trailer using Kanye West.

Overall Trailer Tune Effectiveness: Originality points aside, it's a total winner. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, underscoring a trailer that promises bad behavior of the super-rich and masculine variety while still being a product that critics will eat up with a spoon. Kanye may be the Yeezus in this equation, but here, he's fusing his image to the holy Scorsese.

Previously: Who Gave the Five Most Award-Worthy Performances of 2013 So Far?


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